Soft Power

I’ve already posted about how much I love this new blog. Go now and read their ominously hilarious post about how China manages to shoot itself in the foot whenever it comes to its neverending quest for soft power. An example is a business conference in the city of Leeds that gave a speaking slot to the king of jackals, the Dalai Lama. China’s leader were not amused. As is so often the case, they resort to threats, a very poor strategy in the quest for soft power around the world. They did the same with Norway after Liu Xiaobao won the Nobel Peace Prize and they still do). Rectified.Name comments:

But today an op-ed appeared in the nationalist rag The Global Times which made it quite clear that anybody who messes with China’s dignity should expect a flaming bag of cat hurled in the general direction of their front door sometime in the very near future:

“They must pay the due price for their arrogance. This is also how China can build its authority in the international arena. China doesn’t need to make a big fuss because of the Dalai or a dissident, but it has many options to make the UK and Norway regret their decision.”

You get the idea.

This is China at its soft power worst, scoring goals in its own net and making it exponentially harder to convince the rest of the world that the country is being run by grown-ups.

Need further proof? Take the case of the new documentary Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, produced by Alison Klayman. It’s gotten some decent buzz at Sundance and other stops on the festival circuit, but that wasn’t sufficient for the Chinese government who apparently want EVERYBODY to go see this movie.

Faced with the possibility of appearing at the same film festival as Klayman’s documentary, a Chinese delegation, including representatives from CCTV, pulled out of a planned appearance rather than validate the promoter’s decision to…I don’t know, show films. Anybody not high from inhaling industrial solvents could have predicted what happened next, because as sure as cows shit hay the festival organizers then called a press conference, chastised the Chinese delegation, and reaped a bonanza of free publicity for their festival, Ai Weiwei, Klayman and her film.

Seriously, if the powers that be really wanted to kill this film they’d have SARFT publicly give the documentary its seal of approval.

“Many options.” That is really scary.

I really would like to write a post praising the CCP for its soft policy efforts. They seem to try so hard, but then they seem to try even harder to offend just about everyone. I see so many glimmers of hope, and then they just switch the lights off. There’s a way to express your dissatisfaction without sounding like a snarling bully. Why do they keep getting soft power all wrong? It’s not just that they fail at establishing soft power, it’s that they create exactly the opposite effect from what they set out to achieve.

For bloggers on China, this is a gift that keeps on giving. Same story over and over again, each time with some added bells and whistles. This is supposed to be a government run by engineers employing scientific methods to solve the country’s myriad problems, and in many ways they’ve done a damn good job. Why can’t they apply this scientific approach to the pursuit of soft power instead of setting the laboratory on fire everytime they try?

Update: Be sure to read this one, too!

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 54 Comments

All this advice to Beijing about how they could sell themselves better supposes that a great image is their no. 1 priority. I don’t think it is.

June 16, 2012 @ 5:49 am | Comment

Since it is Euro 2012 season, “own goal” analogies seem apropos. The CCP propaganda team/ foreign ministry are certainly staffed by ardent team players who can’t shoot straight unless they’re aiming for their own feet. Every time tbe CCP whines and complains about the Nobel, or the Dalai Lama, or Ai weiwei, they come across as petulant children. And given the repeated Pavlovian predictability of their huffing and puffing, I’m inclined to agree with JR. They simply must not care about how they look. If they did, they’d rein in the histrionics.

The only caveat would be that they may feel the need to play it a certain way for domestic consumption. Maybe they need to look like the big brute carrying the big stick to their own citizens…or maybe that’s what they think they need to look like. Unfortunately, stuff that’s meant for domestic consumption is instantly available for everyone’s consumption, and the view from the outside is not compatible with any illusions of “soft power”.

June 16, 2012 @ 6:10 am | Comment

Thanks to Richard for linking to the post and for his kind words.

I’d also encourage people to check out JustRecently’s link. I thought it was a well-written and thoughtful critique of the original post. I would argue that while image is not the Chinese government’s first priority, increasing China’s soft power footprint in the world has been the focus of several key initiatives by the Chinese government over the past few years.

June 16, 2012 @ 6:11 am | Comment

I don’t disagree at all with JR’s excellent post. Of course power is priority No. 1. But there’s no denying they are dumping a huge amount of money into their soft power campaigns. Even then, it’s not only for how they are perceived around the world. It is often largely to enhance their image, and thus their power, on the mainland. This was seen a year or so ago when they paid a fortune for gigantic electronic billboards in Times Square that could not possibly resonate with US audiences, but which China pointed to with pride and proof of their growing internationalism.

Perhaps as JR says, “scoffing at Beijing’s regular ‘representations’ amounts to burying one’s head in the sand.” Sure, it’s essential to recognize that actual power, complete power, comes way before soft power abroad. But that doesn’t make their ham-fisted efforts at soft power any less laughable or bizarre.

June 16, 2012 @ 7:09 am | Comment

The problem comes from their need to stick to narratives developed for the domestic audience- maintaining consistency with the official version of history (Dalai Lama is bent on returning Tibet to fuedal theocracy, Liu Xiaobo is a Tiananmen black hand, etc) takes precedence over soft power efforts. The same things that read as outrageous to us can sound pretty different to people raised on the official propaganda regimen, and the Party doesn’t dare contradict itself by treating the Dalai Lama reasonably or something like that.

Soft power efforts directed at foreigners will never be given the same value as the myths that keep Chinese politics intact.

June 16, 2012 @ 8:02 am | Comment

Why can’t they apply this scientific approach to the pursuit of soft power?

Maybe they are. It seems they are employing behavioural theory, in a naive way: punishing those who don’t do what they want, and presumably offering small rewards to those who do.

June 16, 2012 @ 8:54 am | Comment

[...] (HT to Peking Duck) [...]

June 16, 2012 @ 11:22 am | Pingback

I see at least two factors at work here. One as pointed out by Peter. In a simplified way, Beijing will by Airbuses when the Dalai Lama met with European politicians most recently, and Boeings, … And while Beijing’s actions in this field and in others, in a “naive” way, are coming across as crude, they are efficient. When it is about business, politicians and business people are prepared to do and say pretty crude things, too. Obama, for example, whose Far-Eastern policy looks pretty deft to me in general, met Tibet’s supreme monk in the cardroom, rather than in the oval office – Angela Merkel met the Dalai Lama at the beginning of her chancellorship, but there hasn’t been a second meeting so far. China is successfully creating “new realities”, and it doesn’t make much of a difference that this comes across as stupid.

Another, but related, aspect seems to be that few missionaries would re-write the gospel to make it more likeable to the heathens. When looking at the resonance China Radio International’s German broadcasts get, it would seem to me that any western radio station (and certainly those who decide about its funding) would be devastated, and close that thing down right away. But for Beijing, even small beginnings in the field of a comprehensive brainwash are significant in “making the world safe for authoritarianism” (or totalitarianism). At times, steps taken by Beijing propaganda which are meant to be positive, rather than punishing, look funny. When propagandists are “heavy with awareness”, it’s hard not to look clumsy. But that doesn’t hurt them – sooner or later, the message sinks in. It already has, to a remarkable degree. Any accomodation, as silly as a demand may be, can be “rationalized” – with jobs, for example. Or with “global security”.

Therefore, I think you shouldn’t be surprised that a lot of Chinese propagandists don’t share your views on what good propaganda should look like, Richard. The medium isn’t the message, and the message is no end in itself. The CCP is no less orthodox at its core than what it used to be. You will meet with many Chinese who are wringing their hands, just as you do. But from the central perspective, they are off-message, and won’t decide the matter.

Question to Jeremiah: do you see parallels between the way China’s glory is enunciated today, and the way it was in the imperial days? And differences?

June 16, 2012 @ 3:09 pm | Comment

One thing that China needs to realise is not every country is the same and therefore needs to be treated differently. It’s easy for China to sign a deal for $10 billion worth of Airbus or Boeing planes. But countries like the UK can’t sell China big-ticket items. Sure they can make parts for them, but there are only so many Rolls-Royce engines that China could buy. When the Prime Minister made a trade deal in China a year or so ago, it was commented that he wasn’t getting the big dollar value deals approved that France and Germany did. It’s not because Sino-British relations are bad, it’s just that China can’t just easily order a bunch of expensive British goods (we won’t sell top-range military equipment).

So when China starts making threats, the response is “well what have you done for us recently? we’ve barely started talks on [long and different process that ultimately can reap financial gain] and you’re already telling us who we can and can’t let in to the UK. If that’s going to be your attitude, why don’t you go play on the railway tracks?!”

What exactly is China going to do? The UK isn’t going to change policy for extra China imports of Scotch. So is China going to take things to the next level and start economic warfare on the UK? Or persecute British businessmen in China? I have news for China, threatening UK citizens isn’t going to result in change.

Also China is looking to get involved in our nuclear power stations. It’s going to find it hard to do that if it’s trying to punish us!

One last thing, it’s worth pointing out that this is NOT an official government event/meeting. News to China – the UK has something called “independent local government”. I know that in China no local government would dare invite someone blacklisted by Beijing. But London has not control over who Leeds invites, especially when the council is not controlled by the Conservatives or Liberal Democrats. So what’s the rage about – that he COULD have been invited at all? Are Chinese nationalists now demanding that the Dalai Lama be refused visas? If that’s the demand, I think the question would again be “what’s in it for us?” Unspecified threats aren’t going to impress us.

June 16, 2012 @ 5:16 pm | Comment

I’m from Leeds and could see this coming a mile off. Yorkshire is like the Texas of the UK – they like to see themselves as different and won’t be told what to do or say by anyone. China seems to think that an assertive and punitive zero-tolerance approach to anyone meeting with the Dalai Lama will bring people into line. That might work for contract-focused business corporations and small Caribbean countries, but not for local Labout councils! They would be better served with a more nuanced approach that seeks to undermine the credibility of the DL. They could try highlight his perceived political incorrectness and get his hosts to ask awkward questions about Tibetan Buddhists’ attitudes to women, equality and homosexuality. But that would be too subtle.

June 16, 2012 @ 5:56 pm | Comment

If that’s the demand, I think the question would again be “what’s in it for us?”

That’s exactly my point, Raj. The degree to which China will impress the rest of the world will depend, mostly, on its economic attractiveness (if nothing else changes). This has defined China’s influence so far, and this influence has grown remarkably already. If the trend remains the same, I believe the time when the Dalai Lama (provided that he lasts that long) will be denied visas in European countries or in North America (or be quietly asked to stay away) is less than a decade off.

At that moment, local authorities or associations won’t be able to welcome the Dalai Lama either, Mick. Beijing is quite good at letting outsiders do their dirty work, and to have interest groups abroad pressure governments, political parties, et al.

And once again, we’ll explain it all away.

I hope this doesn’t come across as too Dalai-Lama-centered. He’s a remarkable man, but we might as well choose any other topic touched upon in the Rectified Name post, or on similar issues beyond.

June 16, 2012 @ 6:54 pm | Comment

The degree to which China will impress the rest of the world will depend, mostly, on its economic attractiveness

But what is China going to do to get itself into a position where it has that much clout with countries like the UK? The problem China has right now is that it sees big-ticket, one off trade deals as the way to curry favour. That doesn’t work if country X simply doesn’t have lots of things you want to buy in one go. It would have to seriously open itself up to things like foreign services in ways that it isn’t willing to do right now. Do you really see Chinese trade with the UK taking off to such a degree that Chinese goodwill becomes indispensable?

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Mick, whilst I would agree with you that Yorkshiremen and women are very independent, I think the Dalai Lama would still get a warm welcome in many other parts of the UK.

June 16, 2012 @ 7:14 pm | Comment

Britain is – understandably – trying to expand the range of what it may have to offer in UK-Chinese trade, just as in global trade more in general, Raj. If U.S. dispatch leaked last year (which refers to 2004) is correct, the UK was pretty much in the French camp back then (and Germany wasn’t as opposed then as it seems to be now). Even in 2004, Germany basically sided with a “coalition” of otherwise smaller EU member states, like Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

If David Cameron’s initiatives to push British industrial development are successful, more vulnerability for Chinese demands will result from that. You can’t stall in an undesirable economic or industrial constellation simply to be “immune” against Chinese threats, can you? The coming decade, for better or worse, won’t be static, neither in economical, nor in political terms.

On their part, Chinese governments and their domestic advisers (science, diplomats, business people) are discovering the importance of being not just a big exporter, but a big importer, too. It’s conventional wisdom that the goal of development in China is “to lift people out of poverty”. Which is one out of several objectives of development, I guess, and I’m not sure where in the goal hierarchy it is.

The CCP and the (scientific) elites are discussing a range of issues more publicly than “Global-Times” articles or international coverage would usually suggest, but prioritization isn’t one of those issues.

But what is easy to predict – unless Gordon Chang’s doomsday scenarios become real -, is that China’s clout will continue to grow, and the stuff we are discussing here suggests, in my view, that things we used to think of as “unpolitical” will become “poltical”. Very political.

June 16, 2012 @ 7:55 pm | Comment

The first para in my cmt #13 refers to the EU arms embargo.

June 16, 2012 @ 7:56 pm | Comment

One more thing, Raj: Chinese goodwill doesn’t need to become indispensible to make many politicians (not to mention corporations) bend over backwards… A few million U.S. dollars will usually work miracles. We don’t even have to wait for the future to see that happen.

June 16, 2012 @ 8:03 pm | Comment

It’s no secret that for a time the Labour government was open to the idea of relaxing the European arms embargo to China. But within something like 6 to 12 months it had back-tracked. The current position is that the UK is firmly against lifting, even in part, the embargo. And we’re not stupid. We know that if we start selling high-end military gear to China there’s a high chance they’ll rip it apart to try to figure out how it works and make their own knock-offs. Chances are they’d fail, but we (and other allies, especially those that are strategic competitors to China) wouldn’t want to run the risk.

As for industrial development, as I said we simply don’t sell large price-tag stuff that China can buy in bulk for $10 billion or whatever. There are always things that China can buy, but it’s not going to turn heads. China would have to change its policy on a host of issues that would allow us to make far more money in China with our world-beating services.

A few million U.S. dollars will usually work miracles

In a banana republic a few million can buy off politicians. In the UK a bribe like that would be knocked back and quite possibly lead to a (private if not public) diplomatic incident. Even if it was taken it would probably discovered soon enough, which would be another reason for it to be knocked back. As for a trade deal, come on – you know that isn’t going to change anything.

June 16, 2012 @ 8:54 pm | Comment

As for a trade deal, come on – you know that isn’t going to change anything.

I recommend the chapter in Chris Patten’s “East and West” where he remembers what happened when legislation in Hong Kong which Beijing disliked, and a trip by a tade delegation headed by Michael Heseltine coincided, in 1995. (The link I’m giving here is no replacement for Patten’s recollection, btw.)

I’m not talking about bribes, Raj – I’m talking about commerce, and budgets. Just an example: do you think the Soviet Union could have co-sponored institutes on our campuses, even if they had had the means to do so? Any suggestion to that end might have killed a political career, back then.

Economic attractiveness is the key difference.

Our attitude vis-a-vis China’s propaganda is based on self-flattery. Our political systems aren’t corrupt – but they are quite susceptible.

June 16, 2012 @ 9:51 pm | Comment

The UK has signed lots of trade deals with China that amount to more than a few millions dollars, yet the Dalai Lama is still being given visas.

As for Patten, you’ve sort of countered your own point because in the end Heseltine was overruled/ignored by John Major, who supported Patten. It’s hardly surprising that ONE politician might think it best to avoid dealing with sensitive matters before a trade deal. But even if far more people started thinking like Heseltine, that wouldn’t mean the Dalai Lama would be persona non grata across the free world. It might just mean that he would have to plan his diary a bit more carefully and liaise with the governments from those countries as to when would be a bad time to visit. It’s not like he’s making holy pilgrimages that he has to do at certain times of the year.

June 16, 2012 @ 10:05 pm | Comment

The Time article suggests that it was quite a fight – that Major supported Patten in the end didn’t go without saying, and Patten had been the Conservative Party chairman before he became governor. Imagine his predecessors in the same position.

The UK has signed lots of trade deals with China that amount to more than a few millions dollars, yet the Dalai Lama is still being given visas.

And I’m pointing out how the protocol for the Dalai Lama has been reduced in recent years, and that this, plus cases where he has been denied a visa, have been on the rise. As you say yourself, Raj: It might just mean that he would have to plan his diary a bit more carefully and liaise with the governments from those countries as to when would be a bad time to visit.
For now. The frequency of “inconvenient seasons” may rise pretty quickly.

You see, I’m not married to my view of the situation. If someone came up with convincing reasons as to why most Western countries would remain immune – or rather become immune against lobbying from Beijing, such points will be very welcome. But what I’m seeing so far is that “what must not happen, will not happen”. That, and laughing about how ludicrous Beijing’s demands are won’t cut it.

June 16, 2012 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

Political fights are two a penny. As I said, it’s not a shock that a politician might pressure someone to change the timing of something happening.

and that this, plus cases where he has been denied a visa, have been on the rise

When was he last refused a visa to a European or other first world country? South Africa refused him a visa some time ago, but that’s hardly surprising given its government has a somewhat patchy history on human/civil rights.

The frequency of “inconvenient seasons” may rise pretty quickly

Erm, I was suggesting a FUTURE scenario. There is no evidence that the Dalai Lama is currently being told by the British government and its peers to bog off and come back later.

If someone came up with convincing reasons as to why most Western countries would remain immune

You’ve got it backwards. I’m not saying Britain and co will remain immune. I’m saying no one has given me convincing reasons as to why our policy WILL change. I remember Chinese nationalists crowing, and even European/UK news commentators predicting, in 2004/2005 that the EU arms embargo was going to go right then and there. Their heads basically exploded when it didn’t happen. Now, so many years later with still no change in sight, they’re sulking and saying they don’t want our “crappy” arms.

You can believe what you want to believe. I’m not going to make predictions about countries like Germany because I don’t know enough about what politics is like there. But you haven’t convinced me in the slightest that there will be significant change in the near-future in the UK, or that we will be turning the Dalai Lama away in the foreseeable future. Predictions of “within a decade” are meaningless because a lot can happen in 10 years – the Dalai Lama might have a fatal heart attack, for Christ’s sake! And I doubt you and I will both still be here in a decade on this blog to discuss the issue.

June 16, 2012 @ 11:09 pm | Comment

You can believe what you want to believe. I’m not going to make predictions about countries like Germany because I don’t know enough about what politics is like there.

My impression from your last paragraph is that you are angry, Raj. I’m certainly not believeing that my country would be morally superior to others, and it’s not my intention to insult your country. Margaret Thatcher, for example, reportedly refused to meet the Dalai Lama, saying that “the interests of Hong Kong have to be taken into account”. That, if true, was a highly justifiable reason.

South Africa’s human rights record has been “patchy” before and after majority rule. But when it comes to granting or denying visa, human rights aren’t the category to go by. Refugee issues may be such an issue (but that seems to be contested).

There has been an “inconvenient seasons” to meet the Dalai Lama rather recently – in the U.S. -, if the Washington Post didn’t report the case incorrectly.

I can see that I’m not convincing you. I see no problem with that – it should be obvious that both of us are free to believe what we believe.

For that reason, too, I’ll leave it here if nobody else continues this thread.

Thanks for our discussion!

June 16, 2012 @ 11:42 pm | Comment

The report is more of a symptom of the West’s media class being loudmouth whingers than anything. The actions China took against Norway were actually effective but not in a soft power sense.

June 17, 2012 @ 12:36 am | Comment

Hong Kong was an exceptionally difficult and unique situation, so if Thatcher really did take that line it’s understandable. Thatcher really had to worry about the lives of millions of people. Not their potential economic welfare, but every aspect of their lives. What would have happened if there had been no agreement in place and Hong Kong had legally been a divided city? Even if China hadn’t tried to seize control of Kowloon and Hong Kong island it would have been a nightmare to run. But Britain and China will never get into that sort of pickle again because we have no more colonies in China, so it’s not relevant to the conversation.

I’m not angry in the slightest, I just don’t think I can reach a consensus with you on this subject. You really are welcome to your views, but I think they’re based on a misunderstanding of the likely evolution of Sino-British relations and trade.

June 17, 2012 @ 12:38 am | Comment

Raj
What exactly is China going to do? The UK isn’t going to change policy for extra China imports of Scotch. So is China going to take things to the next level and start economic warfare on the UK? Or persecute British businessmen in China? I have news for China, threatening UK citizens isn’t going to result in change.

I don’t know, just two words – Las Malvinas – seems to get Britain to shut up permanently about the Spratlys.

And I hear there is talk of some kind of Scottish Independence?

June 17, 2012 @ 12:48 am | Comment

I don’t know, just two words – Las Malvinas

You’ll have to elaborate.

seems to get Britain to shut up permanently about the Spratlys

I don’t recall the UK having any claims in that part of the world.

And I hear there is talk of some kind of Scottish Independence?

And…?

June 17, 2012 @ 4:00 am | Comment

Soft Power? Total Rubbish.

Of all the nations in history that were referred to as ‘powers’. Which one was militarily weak? Why is Russia called a ‘power’ today? Because it has great health care coverage? It has great environmental protection? It has a great electoral system? Its citizens are gentle and polite? Its municipal planning is sustainable? Its government officials are very uncorrupt?

Now look at countries that are great at the above things: norway, denmark, sweden. These countries have great healthcare coverage, great environmental protection, great goverment transparency, great civility in its citizens, great municipale planning. Which of these countries today is known as a ‘power’?

A country, as long as its military is strong, nothing else matters. Historians can demonize or praise a country anyway they want. But they can’t ignore objective military facts, objective battle statistics, objective number of enemies annhialated, objective number of cities flattened, objective number of corpses vaporized. Just like Stalin, Mao. No matter what ‘modern’, ‘progressive’, ‘civilized’ people say of them, the atomic bomb was created under their reign, nuclear submarines were created under their reign, massive number of enemies were gutted under their reign. So, for me, I’m satisfied.

As long as a government produces advanced missiles, advanced figher jets, advanced fleets, advanced satellites, advanced space ships, then I’m satisfied. If a government gives me all the fancy stuff like environmental protection, healthcare coverage, fair elections, just laws for the disabled, just laws for women, etc. But if they cannot provide anything in the realm of military, then I am still unhappy, unsatisfied, I will still think that government is rubbish government, an incompetent government, a corrupt government, an evil government.

But many Rightists and “universal value” supporters keep nagging the CCP about justice, about citizen welfare, about healthcare, about education, nag and nag everyday. But if you spend even one second building your military, building your industry, building your science and technology, then those people immediately get upset, as feel as anxious and worried as if their own fathers died. In reality, what they are really worried about is that the Chinese military and industry won’t be sabotaged.

June 17, 2012 @ 4:07 am | Comment

Why is Russia called a ‘power’ today?

Which of these countries today is known as a ‘power’?

If you ask Russians and Scandanvians if they’re happy with their lot in life, I have a feeling you’ll find the latter top the former.

As long as a government produces advanced missiles, advanced figher jets, advanced fleets, advanced satellites, advanced space ships

But if they cannot provide anything in the realm of military, then I am still unhappy, unsatisfied

I’m guessing you’re not poor or need government assistance. That or you have some weird sort of military fetish.

June 17, 2012 @ 6:38 am | Comment

@ Raj

Whatever a government invests in, it has to harvest or else the investment goes to waste.

If a government invests in social welfare, it better have a talent-oriented immigration policy to earn some sort of return. If it invests in infrastructure, it should tie it with a comprehensive national economic plan that eventually gets to improving the standard of living (as opposed to investing in infrastructure simply for investing’s sake.)

And if it invests in missiles, jets, fleets, satellites, and tools of war, then it better have the balls to earn a decent return via war/pillage or coercing its’ neighbors.

Otherwise, power is meaningless. What matters isn’t that a nation is powerful now, but whether it is clever enough to use its power to most efficiently acquire more power.

June 17, 2012 @ 7:10 am | Comment

Funny story–just got done having dinner with a Burmese friend, who said the following:

“Aung San Suu Kyi’s father was killed by the British, and then she embraced Britain while studying there. Then she was locked up by the SLORC, who, for all intents and purposes, kept her from seeing her husband while he was dying, and now she works with the SLORC. What’s next, the Chinese or Americans kidnapping her son, to get her to work for them?”

I didn’t find it nearly as funny as he did. What do you guys think?

June 17, 2012 @ 9:21 am | Comment

I wonder if the average Chinese citizen (and not crazed war-mongers like Clock) would prefer good healthcare, clean air, safe food, a more genteel society, and human rights, or a bunch of nukes and a fleet of space ships?

Yes, Mao did kill lots of people. Too bad so many of them were Chinese.

As for corrupt government, the CCP already provides that in spades, so I imagine Clock to be quite content right about now.

June 17, 2012 @ 10:13 am | Comment

well, guess what, a full battalion of armored personnel vehicles showed up in HKG overnight trying to scare people away from demonstrations on July 1st when Mr. CY Leung takes over the ‘throne’.

http://orientaldaily.on.cc/cnt/news/20120616/00174_001.html

CCP continues to shoot itself in the foot..

June 17, 2012 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

I didn’t find it nearly as funny as he did. What do you guys think?

I don’t think it’s funny either. She works with the Burmese government because there’s a chance for change now, not because they’re threatening her or her family.

June 17, 2012 @ 5:17 pm | Comment

well, guess what, a full battalion of armored personnel vehicles showed up in HKG overnight trying to scare people away from demonstrations on July 1st when Mr. CY Leung takes over the ‘throne’.

I think the HK media is overhyping this. From what I can tell this looks like a normal half-year troop rotation and equipment swap. Hong Kong doesn’t have the facilities to maintain armored vehicles, so they have shuttle them back and forth between the rest of the Guangzhou Military Region every so often.

June 17, 2012 @ 9:31 pm | Comment

I think t_co’s right, doesn’t look like there’s much to get excited about. Of course it’s possible to do things unintentionally that still piss people off. Was the rotation publicised in advance?

June 17, 2012 @ 10:43 pm | Comment

Random trivia of the day: During the Liu Xiaobo / Nobel Peace Prize fiasco — and for a good time after — Hong Kong was absolutely flooded with Norwegian salmon. It was on sale in every supermarket.
Even my crappy local sandwich shop in Kowloon was selling Norwegian salmon salads, salads, pasta.
I presume this was because China was “punishing” Norway either by blocking or delaying imports. And some clever middle-man diverted them to us.

Other than feeding Hong Kongers alot of extremely well-priced high-quality fish — and maybe upsetting Norwegian salmon fisherman who have nothing to do with political prizes — the move did nothing.
The Nobel Peace prize is as high-profile as it’s ever been. In fact, Aung San Suu Kyi’s touching recent talk has made headlines all over again.

June 17, 2012 @ 11:25 pm | Comment

@Joyce

Random trivia of the day: During the Liu Xiaobo / Nobel Peace Prize fiasco — and for a good time after — Hong Kong was absolutely flooded with Norwegian salmon. It was on sale in every supermarket.
Even my crappy local sandwich shop in Kowloon was selling Norwegian salmon salads, salads, pasta.
I presume this was because China was “punishing” Norway either by blocking or delaying imports. And some clever middle-man diverted them to us.
Other than feeding Hong Kongers alot of extremely well-priced high-quality fish — and maybe upsetting Norwegian salmon fisherman who have nothing to do with political prizes — the move did nothing.
The Nobel Peace prize is as high-profile as it’s ever been. In fact, Aung San Suu Kyi’s touching recent talk has made headlines all over again.

Not sure if the move was aimed at reputation of the peace prize. I think China ostensibly wants the Nobel Committee to think twice before finding any more honorees from the within the Chinese sphere of influence. Of course, this probably won’t happen… probably just a move cooked up by the bureaucracy to make it look like it’s doing something in response to the awarding of the prize.

Extremely jealous over the salmon, by the way. I love salmon. Have you ever had fettucine alfredo with grilled salmon and a sprinkling of tangerine peel? It’s absolutely divine…

June 18, 2012 @ 12:22 am | Comment

I think t_co’s right, doesn’t look like there’s much to get excited about. Of course it’s possible to do things unintentionally that still piss people off. Was the rotation publicised in advance?

Well July 1st is a while off, but if the PLA doesn’t even like to offer press conferences when unveiling brand new fighter jets, I doubt they would publicize a mundane battalion rotation within a single regiment.

(for reference, a battalion is ~800-1000 troops; a regiment/brigade, ~3000-4000; a division, ~10000-15000… the Guangzhou Military Region has 5 divisions and 13 regiments and brigades)

June 18, 2012 @ 12:27 am | Comment

From my blog.

David Lindsay writes:

“He is over here again.

The present Dalai Lama was born hundreds of miles outside Tibet. The Tibetans themselves migrated to what is now Tibet from further east in China, but huge numbers of them never did and never have done. The Dalai Lama comes from one such family.

Before 1959, Tibet was not an independent state ruled benignly by the Dalai Lama and given over almost entirely to the pursuit of spirituality. Tibet was certainly ruled by the Dalai Lama, by the lamas generally, and by the feudal landlord class from which the lamas were drawn. “Dalai” is a family name; only a member of the House of Dalai can become the Dalai Lama.

Well over 90 per cent of the population was made up of serfs, the background from which the present rulers of Tibet are drawn. That system was unique in China, and existed only because successive Emperors of China had granted the Tibetan ruling clique exactly the “autonomy” for which it still campaigns from “exile”. Life expectancy in Tibet was half what it is today.

There has never been an independent state of Tibet. Likewise, the presence of large numbers of Han (ethnic Chinese in the ordinary sense) and other Chinese ethnic groups in Tibet is nothing remotely new. The one-child policy does not apply in Tibet, so the Han majority there is the ethnic Tibetans’ own fault, if they even see it as a problem. It is totally false to describe the Dalai Lama as “their spiritual leader”. Relatively few would view him as such. In particular, Google “Dorje Shugden” for, to put at its mildest, some balance to the media portrayal of the present Dalai Lama.

Moreover, he has never condemned either the invasion of Afghanistan or the invasion of Iraq. For more on Buddhism as no more a religion of peace than Islam is, see Sri Lanka, Burma, Mongolia, Japan, Thailand, and beyond. In fact, an examination of the relevant texts shows that violence in general and war in particular are fundamental to Buddhism, admittedly a difficult thing to define, in the way that they are to Islam and at least arguably to Judaism, but simply are not, as a first principle, to Christianity. Tibet is particularly striking for this. It is also more than worth noting that the Sri Lankan war criminals were among those on whose behalf Liam Fox was treasonably running a parallel foreign policy out of his office and via his fake charity.”

The Dalai Lama is no longer a threat to any government, as far as the political climate inside China goes. Most Tibetans within China do recognise that their lives today are much better off than they were under the old Buddhist theocracy, even if their economic condition remains wretched on account of the only-partial decollectivisation mixed with market reforms which has characterised the rule of the post-Deng CCP. Tellingly, by unofficial polling most Tibetans simply do not identify with the Dalai Lama, the former lama-slaveowner-dominated ‘government’-in-exile, or with their political cause. The only persons the Dalai Lama is capable of harming inside China seem to be the tragic souls who demand the Dalai Lama’s return to China, and who burn themselves to death in protest as a result.

In the Anglosphere and in Europe, the Dalai Lama’s political efforts are pernicious in a different way. He serves as the lightning rod of all manner of politically dubious causes (including Uyghur separatism and, by extension, Japanese far-right militarism and territorial expansionism – at China’s expense). Simultaneously, by way of his deft counter-propagansiding against a government as singularly inept at presenting its own case before a world audience as China’s, managed to have made of himself an icon of ‘nonviolent’ resistance to authoritarianism in the process. Recently, though, his efforts at attracting Western sympathy have drawn some scepticism, and by no means just from Chinese netizen-fenqing with axes to grind.

More attention to the rights and dignities – political, social, economic, cultural – of the Tibetan people in China, is an urgent and, I would say, dire necessity: if for no other reason than against the encroachment of the faceless, all-consuming cultural black hole which ‘reform and opening’ continues to, well, open. But the idea that the Dalai Lama or his ‘government’-in-exile are the right people for the job seems to me to be slightly unwarranted. Why not have leaders and advocates for the Tibetan people who were, for one thing, actually born in Tibet, and who have actually lived in Tibet over the last sixty years?

June 18, 2012 @ 6:19 am | Comment

Not sure why you’re using this space for a lecture on a topic we have discussed here many times. Nothing really new here.

June 18, 2012 @ 7:12 am | Comment

Close to undigested PRC propaganda, that Lindsay piece…

June 18, 2012 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Second Slim. Accepting the CCP line wholesale is not revelatory insight. That the man needs to prove Budhism as ‘war-like’, and does a very bad job of doing so (note to Lindsay: Japan is Shinto-majority, not Budhist; not protesting the Afghan and Iraq wars is not proof of anything for a Tibetan) demonstrates his bad faith in dealling with the subject matter from the outset. A similar hit-piece could be written about anyone from the Pope to Queen Elizabeth II on the basis of what they ‘did not protest’ and the peculiarities of their position, and would be equally meaningless. This is not to say that the DL is beyond criticism, but that criticism should be directed to actions and failures to act that are relevant to their actual role.

June 18, 2012 @ 1:34 pm | Comment

The problem is that engineers, in general, are not good at public relations ;-)

June 18, 2012 @ 5:59 pm | Comment

This can also explain while China national soccer team has been so terribly unsuccessful in international competitions.

Some should explain the CCP to which goal to shot the ball in, and that in usually changes in the middle of the game, normally after the rest..

Maybe they should try American football…

June 18, 2012 @ 9:49 pm | Comment

Richard, the OP was (partially) concerning Mr Tenzin Gyatso’s visit to Leeds, no? Mr Lindsay was addressing precisely that visit.

Mr Grundy, it is hardly just the ‘CCP line’. It is a matter of historical record that Mr Gyatso was not born in Tibet, but rather in Qinghai Province. The figures on Tibetan serfdom are also a matter of historical record, by Melvyn Goldstein, Michael Parenti and Anna Louise Strong – none of whom were or are on the CCP payroll (and Michael Parenti having been a strong critic of Stalin and Mao’s regimes). I would have thought that you of all people would be able to understand that one can be a critic of the CCP without having to be an uncritical friend to all of the CCP’s enemies.

June 18, 2012 @ 10:55 pm | Comment

One more thought:

Mr Lindsay was not, Mr Grundy, claiming that Japan was majority-Buddhist. He claimed only that Japanese history demonstrated that Buddhism was prone to violence, which is true. The Nichiren and Zen Buddhist sects in Japan were notorious for their warlordism and their fortified monasteries, and were in fact some of the last outposts to be subdued by the Shogunate. In the end, Buddhist doctrines were deftly woven by the Shogunate and the Imperial government into Shinto emperor-devotions to service violent, state-driven ends.

http://www.sangam.org/articles/view/?id=118

As to the Pope – both Popes, actually, John Paul II and Benedict XVI – both of them explicitly condemned the Iraq War as incompatible with Christian Just War theory. The Queen of England is not a religious figure and it is constitutionally inappropriate for her to comment on controversial matters of public policy, but the man who speaks for her on matters spiritual, her appointed Archbishop of Canterbury (and the head of my own church) Rowan Williams, decried the Iraq War as a ‘murderous folly’. Really, what was stopping the Dalai Lama from doing the same, given the sway he seems to have amongst Western political leaders?

June 18, 2012 @ 11:25 pm | Comment

Mr. Lindsay’s essay, for the most part, simply rehashes the same old stuff. So its relevance to the Dalai Lama’s recent visit to Leeds is highly questionable, and that’s being extremely kind.

His last paragraph has some merit. After this many years in exile, it is a reasonable question to ask whether the TGIE or the Dalai Lama are the proper surrogates for Tibetan self-expression. That question should most appropriately be put to the Tibetan people. I imagine any time the CCP wants to put that to the test would be just fine. That said, there is also no reason to exclude the Dalai lama from such a role simply based on his birthplace. If you want Tibetans to decide who should speak on their behalf, then you have to accept their decision. If they choose someone not born in Tibet and who hasn’t lived there for 60 years, well, that’s their call.

June 19, 2012 @ 2:37 am | Comment

After this many years in exile, it is a reasonable question to ask whether the TGIE or the Dalai Lama are the proper surrogates for Tibetan self-expression. That question should most appropriately be put to the Tibetan people.

I believe that as long as Tibet, just as the rest of China, is under a totalitarian dictatorship, a counter-public abroad should be taken at least as seriously as the “public” within the PRC. It’s bad that it can’t exist within China, but it is good that it does exist at all.

June 19, 2012 @ 4:32 am | Comment

It shouldn’t be hard for the CCP to recruit a network of people to present their viewpoint to the world in a low-key fashion. Take the Dalai Lama for example: one could imagine “nuanced” and “balanced” magazine articles and blog posts calculated to undermine his appeal to key groups. For example, the position of his branch of Buddhism on homosexuality and abortion is not too dissimilar to the Vatican, and his support among liberals could be eroded by subtly drawing attention to that. This would be more effective than arguing over whether there has ever been an independent state of Tibet, or whether Tibet was a feudal theocracy before 1949 or not.

It would also fit in with the CCP’s factional culture: a suitably liberal and reform-oriented faction could establish relationships with well-meaning, amateur journalists and offer them enough protection to get into places officially closed to mainstream media. Let them take the Dalai Lama’s side often enough that they occasionally get into trouble: this would give them credibility. Low-level officials could be kept in the dark so that they can still do their usual harrassment. There would be no need to directly rebut or criticise the Dalai Lama: just present enough complexity and “nuance” to muddy the waters and encourage reasonable people to take a middle-ground stance rather than siding with him by default.

Most bloggers aren’t paid to write, and it probably wouldn’t even cost much money to implement a strategy like this. In the worst case scenario, it would be no more ineffective than their other soft-power strategies.

June 19, 2012 @ 6:35 am | Comment

Interesting article here
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/18/china-birth-of-superpower

June 19, 2012 @ 9:23 am | Comment

Hey, bunch of huge errors in the Lindsay piece. Dalai isn’t a family name, and claiming it is shows that the author has next to no understanding of how Tibetan politics work. Reincarnate lamas are regularly found in poor and nomadic families, by the way.

Also, saying that the Dalai Lama was born outside of Tibet is pretty disingenuous- he was born outside of what is called Tibet on Chinese maps, but inside what Tibetans (bod’pa) call Tibet (bod). If I were to invade China and partition a tiny section of it off and call it China, would the rest of the Chinese populace be outside of China? Say I chose Hubei and Hunan as China, for example, and made up other names for the rest of it- are Beijingers and Shanghaiers now not Chinese? Were they now born outside of China?

The simple fact is that Tibetans understand Tibet to have three regions- Amdo, U-Tsang, and Kham, which are all Tibet. The lines by which these regions are now divided have been imposed by China for political reasons, and frankly a lot of Khampas and Amdowas would be extremely offended if you said they aren’t Tibetan or that they haven’t been to Tibet by virtue of not having visited the Xizang zizhiqu (which, by the way, doesn’t have a name in Tibetan). Regional identities are still really important, but saying that the Dalai Lama wasn’t born in Tibet is simply false, unless you specifically refer to the Tibet Autonomous Region, a separate entity than Tibet.

As for whether or not the CTA should be in charge of Tibet- they themselves proposed that Tibetans be allowed to decide that. They aren’t calling for themselves to be reinstated in Lhasa as a weird successor state to the Ganden Phodrang, but rather for a democratic Tibet in which Tibetans make the call themselves. The text of their proposals to Beijing makes this very clear, and any other understanding is a misinterpretation which Beijing has worked very hard to propagate.

June 20, 2012 @ 8:25 am | Comment

By the way, none of this is meant to absolve Tibet of the problems it had before the Chinese annexation, but there are enough real problems there that people don’t need to make up fake ones- unless they have a political agenda for doing so, as the CCP does.

June 20, 2012 @ 8:28 am | Comment

“What exactly is China going to do? The UK isn’t going to change policy for extra China imports of Scotch. So is China going to take things to the next level and start economic warfare on the UK? Or persecute British businessmen in China? I have news for China, threatening UK citizens isn’t going to result in change.”

Actually Raj, what the Chinese can do is start squeezing the British financial industry–market access and cooperation opportunities with Chinese banks are critical to recapitalizing Britain’s battered banks, and given the flexibility of the Chinese finance rulebook, they can make life very, very difficult if they so chose to do so.

E.g. lets say a British bank wanted to sell a stake in a Chinese bank for a capital gain–the ministry could impose a windfall tax of up to 75% of the net capital gains at its sole discretion. Alternatively, it could make it illegal or administratively difficult for Chinese citizens to move their wealth into the UK as opposed to the US, Australia, or Canada, or even focus it more tightly on barring wealth management firms from the UK from participating in capital transfers. Given how much The City contributes to the UK election cycle, such actions would undoubtedly have an effect on Whitehall/10 Downing.

June 20, 2012 @ 1:21 pm | Comment

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June 22, 2012 @ 8:53 pm | Pingback

Lindsey & Cooper mix tendentious opinions with blatant historical inaccuracies. “Dalai” is not a family name and as far as I know none of the Dalai Lamas have been related to each other by blood. Perhaps the best thing the Chinese ever did for Tibet was the emperor’s declaration in 1792 that the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama must not be born into noble families. That’s why the current Dalai Lama’s parents were humble villagers from Amdo. His family’s surname is Taklha, not Dalai. Even before 1792, they came from a variety of backgrounds. For instance, the 6th Dalai Lama was famously a Mönpa from what is now Arunachal Pradesh in India.
Also, the idea that the Tibetans “came from the east” and some of them stayed behind is confused. In prehistorical times, the ancestors of the Tibetans “came from”, you know, Olduvai Gorge and various points in between. Some studies show they share common genetic ancestry with the Hans in the relatively recent past, i.e. in the last few thousand years. However, Tibetans appear in the historical record only since the 7th century CE and they definitely expanded outward from a heartland in the vicinity of Lhasa. Not that this has any relevance for modern political disputes.
“Why not have leaders and advocates for the Tibetan people who were, for one thing, actually born in Tibet, and who have actually lived in Tibet over the last sixty years?” This argument seems totally contextless. In terms of abstract principle, yes why should a theocratic ruler from a dark-ages-style old regime that was overthrown 60 years ago be a spokesman for anybody? But a political or cultural leader is often a Schelling point: people want to agree on something more than they care what it is that they agree on. The Dalai Lama is the obvious spokesman for Tibet because he was the most recent leader of the most recent regime before the current one and he is very popular among Tibetans. He seems to have a unique status in Tibet as a symbol of Tibetan identity (certainly not just among his own religious sect: a book I’m reading pointed out that for a long time it was common for Bön temples to display an image of the Dalai Lama dressed in Bön ceremonial garb; and they are not technically even Buddhists).
The Dalai Lama has the additional advantage of being an internationally beloved celebrity. The position of other exile leaders such as Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister of the non-soi-disant government-in-exile, is much more tenuous. That doesn’t mean that they have no appeal at all to Tibetans in Tibet. Tsering Woeser (basically the only notable Tibetan dissident in the PRC who is not in prison) obviously takes Lobsang Sangay seriously, and I recall she mentioned other comments from the Tibetans-in-the-PRC blogosphere making note of Lobsang Sangay’s election.
The real question is who are these Tibetan leaders and advocates who actually live in Tibet? They have tended to meet with unfortunate accidents like going to prison or getting beaten with cattle prods. Woeser is lucky: all that’s happened to her so far is that she lost her job, had to leave Tibet, and is intermittently censored. This is better than nobody. Still, who does the average Tibetan put more trust in, Woeser or the Dalai Lama?

June 23, 2012 @ 1:07 am | Comment

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